I Was

Andrew Mcgibbon presents a series of interviews analysing great artists from the perspective of someone who knew them.

Episodes

SeriesEpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
Peckinpah's Girl Friday2007082120071104

Andrew McGibbon tells the story of Katy Haber, legendary Hollywood director Sam Peckinpah's Girl Friday and rumoured to be the unofficial co-director of films such as Straw Dogs, The Killer Elite and The Getaway.

Contributors include Ali MacGraw and film critic Mark Kermode.

Peter Sellers' Assistant2007082820071111

Andrew Mcgibbon tells the story of Tricia Hammond, PA to Peter Sellers in 1975.

Peter's career had taken a tumble in the early 1970s but that year saw his fortunes reversed with The Return of the Pink Panther.

Tricia provides a different insight into the private world of the brilliant actor whose inner life and self-doubt has been made so public.

0101Dudley Moore's First Bandleader2008120220090617

John Bassett met Dudley Moore at Oxford in the late 1950s and asked him to join his band.

John Bassett met Dudley Moore, then a talented organ scholar, at Oxford in the late 1950s, and asked him to become the pianist in his jazz band, The Basset Hounds.

The success of Moore's musical comedy skits led to Bassett introducing him to three other up-and-coming talents who would go on, with Moore, to find fame in Beyond the Fringe.

Including contributions from Bassett Hound members Duncan Lamont and Pete Shade and Dudley's Beyond the Fringe colleague Jonathan Miller

A Curtains for Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

John Bassett met Dudley Moore at Oxford in the late 1950s and asked him to join his band.

0102Ernest Hemingway's La Secretaria2008120920110527

Valerie Danby Smith was Ernest Hemingway's secretary in the final two years of his life, accompanying him on trips to Spain, New York and his house in Havana.

As their relationship blossomed, Ernest even proposed to her - while he was still married to his wife - and later confided to her that he was planning to commit suicide after learning he was going blind.

Valerie Danby Smith was Ernest Hemingway's secretary in the final two years of his life.

Andrew McGibbon analyses great artists at a significant time in their careers but from the perspective of someone who worked for them, inspired them, employed them or even did their job for them while no one was looking.

Valerie Danby Smith was Ernest Hemingway's secretary in the final two years of his life, accompanying him, his wife and their entourage on bullfighting tours of Spain, trips to New York, and stays in his beloved house in Havana, Cuba.

As their relationship blossomed Ernest even proposed to her - while he was still married to his wife - and later confided in Valerie that he was planning to commit suicide after learning he was going blind.

This is a moving story of love and duty and how an innocent convent educated girl in a chance encounter in Spain finds herself the willing pupil of one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century who was determined to teach Valerie everything he could about the art of writing and why a courageous engagement of life was vital to that art.

Producers: Andrew McGibbon and Nick Romero

A Curtains For Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

Valerie Danby Smith was Ernest Hemingway's secretary in the final two years of his life, accompanying him, his wife and their entourage on bullfighting tours of Spain, trips to New York, and stays in his beloved house in Havana, Cuba. As their relationship blossomed Ernest even proposed to her - while he was still married to his wife - and later confided in Valerie that he was planning to commit suicide after learning he was going blind.

0103Douglas Adams' Flatmate2008121620090624

Jon Canter shared a flat with his friend Douglas Adams while the latter struggled for success and then coped with the fame he found following the success of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Jon reveals the business of sharing a flat with his fiercely loyal, manically obsessive, loveable giant of a friend, who is still greatly missed after his sudden death ten years ago.

Featuring contributions from other flatmates and Douglas's friend Professor Richard Dawkins.

Featuring contributions from other flatmates and Douglas' friend Professor Richard Dawkins.

A Curtains for Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

Jon Canter shared a flat with Douglas Adams while the latter struggled for success.

0104 LASTDavid Lean's Boy Star2008122320110526

Andrew McGibbon analyses great artists at a significant time in their careers but from the perspective of someone who worked for them, inspired them, employed them or even did their job for them while no one was looking.

John Howard Davies played Oliver Twist in David Lean's 1948 black and white classic.

For the eight-year old boy on a film set for the first time in his life, surrounded by the likes of Alec Guinness, Robert Newton and Anthony Newley it was an exciting and dizzying break from the privations of a post war childhood.

Nevertheless the fame that followed the success of the film did not suit John and he struggled for many years afterward to adjust.

With authentic insights into the making of the film, fresh views on the legendary actors John reveals a fascination and respect for David Lean that led him to chose a similar career path to his mentor - that of a director and producer of some of the BBC's most classic comedies in the seventies.

Featuring contributions from producer Ronald Neame and biographer Kevin Brownlow.

Producers: Andrew McGibbon and Nick Romero

A Curtains For Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

John talks about starring, aged eight, in David Lean's 1948 film version of Oliver Twist.

As an eight-year-old, John Howard Davies played Oliver Twist in David Lean's classic 1948 film.

Although the fame it brought him was not to his liking, John talks of the respect he had for Lean that led to him ultimately becoming a successful director and producer himself.

Featuring contributions from producer Ronald Neame and David Lean's biographer Kevin Brownlow.

John Howard Davies played Oliver Twist in David Lean's 1948 black and white classic. For the eight-year old boy on a film set for the first time in his life, surrounded by the likes of Alec Guinness, Robert Newton and Anthony Newley it was an exciting and dizzying break from the privations of a post war childhood.

0201George Orwell's Pupil2015091420160625 (R4)

Andrew McGibbon returns with the series that analyses great artists at a significant time in their careers - but from the perspective of someone who worked for them, inspired them, employed them, was taught by them or even did their job for them while no one was looking.

In 1932, George Orwell was still known as Eric Blair and supporting himself by teaching in a private middle school run by tradesmen in semi rural Hayes, West London.

Geoffrey Stevens was one of his pupils during the year that saw him publish his first book - Down and Out in Paris and London - and also change his name from Eric Blair to George Orwell.

Geoffrey, now 96, remembers Orwell teaching him French - badly, Orwell's harsh classroom style and reliance on corporal punishment, his avuncular after school country walks to look for puss moth larva and collect marsh gas, and Orwell directing the school play which he wrote himself.

He recalls how Orwell was driven mad by the school owner's wife playing Baptist hymns on the piano late into the night, the curious role of the school parrot during mealtimes and Orwell coming round for tea with Geoffrey's mum and dad and giving him more homework as a result.

It's a fragment of time that reveals fascinating and mundane insights to George Orwell, a powerful sense of early thirties suburban London during the depression and the story of an underperforming pupil who went on to run two businesses and, at nearly 100, still walks 30 miles a week.

Written and presented by Andrew McGibbon

Produced by Nick Romero and Andrew McGibbon

A Curtains For Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

Andrew McGibbon presents the series that analyses great artists at a significant time in their careers - but from the perspective of someone who worked for them, inspired them, employed them, was taught by them or even did their job for them while no one was looking.

Reader: Gunnar Cauthery

0202Chet Baker's Last Tour Manager2015092120160702 (R4)

Chet Baker, the jazz trumpeter and singer came to prominence after he joined the Gerry Mulligan quartet in 1952 at the heart of the world's first piano-less jazz quartet and the originator of cool jazz. Using their instruments, (Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax and Chet Baker on trumpet, sometimes singing) and playing engaging, contrapuntal improvisations they made a startling breakthrough in cool jazz. Chet Baker, the singing, trumpet playing star was hatched.

When the elements of sex, jazz and cool combined they created the equivalent of an intellectual nuclear fusion. No one encapsulates that explosion better than the arrival on the jazz scene of Chet Baker.

Jim Coleman, owner of a hi fi store on New York's 2nd Avenue managed Chet's touring schedules for the last four years of his life. Chet was unable to play in certain American clubs as a result of his being criminalised by heroin addiction. He had been busted in Europe too.

Jim tells the story of how they met briefly across three time periods: once when Jim was thirteen and studying trumpet in Rome, when his sister Joan married Chet's bass player and when Jim opened his hi fi store. In the eighties Jim offered to manage Chet's difficult touring schedule. A moving and fascinating account of the final years of Chet Baker as they intertwined with the owner of a hi fi shop, as Chet tried to tour the US and Europe whilst in the fatal grip of heroin addiction.

Written and Presented by Andrew McGibbon

Produced by Nick Romero and Andrew McGibbon

A Curtains For Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

0203 LASTTina Turner's Dancer20150928

Andrew McGibbon talks to Anne Behringer, Tina Turner's dancer in her touring band at the height of her fame as a solo stage performer during the nineties.

Tina Turner remains one of the greatest r'n'b singers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Her partnership with Ike Turner produced one of the most electrifying live acts in the 1960s. After her split with abusive husband Ike, her career revived in the 1980s. The spectacle of Live Aid and the explosion of corporate CD rock in that decade led Tina to an astonishing level of global success in sales and on stage. It made her an international star and, critically, a universal performer, appealing to both black and white audiences.

Anne Behringer was born into a liberal New England family brought up to believe that everybody was equal regardless of tribe, colour and religion. Anne was also a serial dancer from a very early age - almost, it seems, since she could walk.

During the most significant time in Tina Turner's career, Anne, having recovered from major drug and alcohol abuse, was then offered work on Tina's world tour. This meant exposure to the drugs and alcohol all over again. Could Anne cope with being on a world tour, a dry singer in a world surrounded by temptation?

She went on to set up the internationally renowned Promises chain of rehabs. But, as Tina's white dancer in a US tour, she experienced first hand the racism still alive in America's deep south.

Written and Presented by Andrew McGibbon

Producers Nick Romero and Louise Morris

A Curtains for Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

0301Lindsay Kemp's Ballerina20170130

Andrew McGibbon analyses great artists at a significant time in their careers, but from the perspective of someone who worked for them, inspired them, employed them or even did their job for them while no one was looking.

Naomi Sorkin was Lindsay Kemp's ballerina on an outrageous European tour with the mime and dance impresario in the early 1980s. Having been trained in classical ballet at The American Ballet company in New York, one of the world's finest, Naomi was thrust into Lindsay's colourful, joyously camp and profoundly sexual mime theatre - a total change of direction.

Today, she teaches ballet and is a high end interior designer - but, back then, Naomi's decision to dance improvised ballet with Lindsay's touring company forced her to reassess her career by embracing Kemp's whirlwind of mime, dance and on stage debauchery.

It was also Lindsay Kemp who famously taught David Bowie his most striking moves and co-created with him the famous Ziggy Stardust stage show. Kemp continues to tour across the world.

Written and Presented by Andrew McGibbon

Produced by Nick Romero and Andrew McGibbon

A Curtains For Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

0302Erno Goldfinger's Last Architectural Assistant20170206

Andrew McGibbon analyses great artists at a significant time in their careers, but from the perspective of someone who worked for them, inspired them, employed them or even did their job for them while no one was looking.

Anyone driving along London's M40 Westway cannot fail to notice Trellick Tower, architect Erno Goldfinger's brutalist monument to the ideals of 20th century, urban residential living.

James Dunnett was the last architectural assistant to Erno Goldfinger, the great evangelist of the brutalist school of residential architecture, towards the end of his career in the late 1960s when public opinion turned against tower blocks as a form of social housing. The great émigré architect now found that he had to don his best suit, swallow his astonishing pride and start looking for work.

A moving and fascinating account of the last days of the disciple of Le Corbusier whose iconic Trellick Tower, though controversially out of fashion when it opened in 1972, has not only become a listed building but spurred the imagination of writer JG Ballard in his novel High Rise and has been the visual backdrop to many futuristic urban dystopias.

Written and Presented by Andrew McGibbon

Producers: Nick Romero and Louise Morris

A Curtains For Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

0303 LASTI Was Philip K Dick's Reluctant Host2017021320171205

Andrew McGibbon analyses great artists at a significant time in their careers, but from the perspective of someone who worked for them, inspired them, employed them or even did their job for them while no one was looking.

In "I Was Philip K Dick's Reluctant Host", Michael Walsh - a journalist and respected film reviewer for The Province, a leading Vancouver newspaper - talks about the time he came to the aid of the author of Minority Report, Blade Runner, Total Recall and Man in the High Castle, who he met at a convention in 1972.

Discovering that Dick's wife had walked out on him, that he had nowhere to go and was also suffering deep addiction problems, Michael invited Philip to stay with him and his wife Susan at their home in Vancouver.

It would go on to be one of the most challenging experiences of Michael's life, as drug dependency, unwanted advances on Michael's wife and unpredictable mood swings made the period something of an emotional rollercoaster for the wary hosts - but also fascinating insight into one of Sci-Fi's greatest ever visionaries.

Written and Presented by Andrew McGibbon

Producers: Nick Romero and Louise Morris

A Curtains For Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

Michael Walsh talks about the challenging time when writer Phillip K Dick shared his home.

Andrew McGibbon analyses great artists at a significant time in their careers, but from the perspective of someone who worked for them, inspired them, employed them or even did their job for them while no one was looking.

In "I Was Phillip K Dick's Reluctant Host", Michael Walsh - a journalist and respected film reviewer for The Province, a leading Vancouver newspaper - talks about the time he came to the aid of the author of Minority Report, Blade Runner, Total Recall and Man in the High Castle, who he met at a convention in 1972.

Discovering that Dick has sold his house in California and was planning to stay in Canada, Michael invited Phillip to stay with him and his wife Susan at their home in Vancouver.

It would go on to be one of the most challenging experiences of Michael's life, as drug dependency, unwanted advances on Michael's wife and unpredictable mood swings made the period something of an emotional rollercoaster for the wary hosts - but also fascinating insight into one of Sci-Fi's greatest ever visionaries.

Written and Presented by Andrew McGibbon
Producers: Nick Romero and Louise Morris

A Curtains For Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

0401I Was Billie Holliday's Replacement2017052520171128

Andrew McGibbon talks to Annie Ross, who was Billie Holiday's stand in at Harlem's Apollo.

Andrew McGibbon analyses great artists at a significant time in their careers, but from the perspective of someone who worked for them, inspired them, employed them or did their job for them while no one was looking.

Annie Ross was a young singer from Scotland who found herself in a bigger spotlight when she was asked by Duke Ellington to stand in for Billie Holliday at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.

She was petrified, but was well received by the audience. From there, Annie developed an intriguing relationship with Billie and as Billie's career nosedived with substance abuse and bad love, Annie's career as a singer took off as she created a new style of singing with her hit record Twisted.

This is a moving story of japes and heartbreak from a witness and friend of one of the most significant jazz singers of the 20th Century.

Written and presented by Andrew McGibbon
Produced by Nick Romero
A Curtains for Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

0402I Was Bob Dylan's One-off Sparring Partner20170601

Andrew McGibbon talks to Daniel Catfish Russ, who went two boxing rounds with Bob Dylan.

Daniel 'Catfish' Russ started out as a boxer, trained as a Rabbi and was a stand-up comedian before settling on his chosen profession, advertising. He also plays blues harmonica. But in April 2008 Catfish found himself opposite his idol, Bob Dylan, in a boxing ring in Austin, Texas.

Written and Presented by Andrew McGibbon
Producer: Nick Romero
A Curtains For Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

0403I Was Johnny Cash's Tailor2017060820171212

Andrew McGibbon talks to Manuel Cuevas, who created Johnny Cash's black suits.

Andrew McGibbon talks to Manuel Cuevas, the man who created and made the suits that defined "the Man in Black" - country singer, Johnny Cash.

At 75, he is the "King of Cowboy Bling". He has been designing clothes since he was a boy - barely 7 years old - in his native Mexico. His Nashville store is where all the stars get their threads. But from 1969 Manuel was hired to design Johnny Cash's legendary black suits and formed an extraordinary relationship with the iconic star.

In I Was... Johnny Cash's Tailor, Manuel Cuevas tells the story of his tailoring relationship with the country singer and how he saw the metaphysical black in Johnny's character and couldn't resist making him black suits. This is a charming story about the spiritual relationship between a tailor and the most inscrutable and enduring country music star ever.

Written and presented by Andrew McGibbon
A Curtains for Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

0404 LASTI Was John Lennon's Trauma Surgeon2017061520171219
20171219 (R4)

Andrew McGibbon talks to trauma surgeon Dr David Halleran, who tried to save John Lennon.

Dr David Halleran was the trauma surgeon who held John Lennon's heart in his hands after he was fatally shot outside the Dakota buildings in New York.

Halleran was a third-year general surgery resident at New York's Roosevelt Hospital when an unidentified man with four gunshot wounds to the chest was brought to the emergency room. But Halleran didn't recognize the victim and began trying to restore his vital signs like any other patient.

During this time one of the nurses said, "That looks like John Lennon." Halleran was not so sure.

Halleran, a Beatles fan himself, describes the brief time he spent with Lennon as he desperately tried to bring his heart back to life, including massaging it in his hands. This sudden meeting in the most tragic of circumstances became a remarkable event in Halleran's life as well as a defining cultural one for Beatles lovers around the world.

Written and Presented by Andrew McGibbon
Producer: Nick Romero
A Curtains for Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

Andrew McGibbon talks to trauma surgeon Dr David Halleran, who tried to save John Lennon.

Series analysing great artists from the perspective of someone who knew them

Dr David Halleran was the trauma surgeon who held John Lennon's heart in his hands after he was fatally shot outside the Dakota buildings in New York.

Halleran was a third-year general surgery resident at New York's Roosevelt Hospital when an unidentified man with four gunshot wounds to the chest was brought to the emergency room. But Halleran didn't recognize the victim and began trying to restore his vital signs like any other patient.

During this time one of the nurses said, "That looks like John Lennon." Halleran was not so sure.

Halleran, a Beatles fan himself, describes the brief time he spent with Lennon as he desperately tried to bring his heart back to life, including massaging it in his hands. This sudden meeting in the most tragic of circumstances became a remarkable event in Halleran's life as well as a defining cultural one for Beatles lovers around the world.

Written and Presented by Andrew McGibbon
Producer: Nick Romero
A Curtains for Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

Andrew McGibbon talks to trauma surgeon Dr David Halleran, who tried to save John Lennon.

Dr David Halleran was the trauma surgeon who held John Lennon's heart in his hands after he was fatally shot outside the Dakota buildings in New York.

Halleran was a third-year general surgery resident at New York's Roosevelt Hospital when an unidentified man with four gunshot wounds to the chest was brought to the emergency room. But Halleran didn't recognize the victim and began trying to restore his vital signs like any other patient.

During this time one of the nurses said, "That looks like John Lennon." Halleran was not so sure.

Halleran, a Beatles fan himself, describes the brief time he spent with Lennon as he desperately tried to bring his heart back to life, including massaging it in his hands. This sudden meeting in the most tragic of circumstances became a remarkable event in Halleran's life as well as a defining cultural one for Beatles lovers around the world.

Written and Presented by Andrew McGibbon
Producer: Nick Romero
A Curtains for Radio production for BBC Radio 4.

0501I Was Philip Larkin's Magician20180702

Andrew McGibbon talks to Edwin Dawes, biochemist and beloved magician to Philip Larkin.

Series analysing great artists from the perspective of someone who knew them

Andrew McGibbon talks to Edwin Dawes, biochemist and beloved magician to Philip Larkin.

Edwin Alfred Dawes arrived at the University of Hull to establish its Biochemistry department in 1963. There he met Larkin, the poet and university librarian. They became good friends and Edwin became chairman of the library committee, working under Larkin.

But Edwin had a parallel professional interest in magic and conjuring, and Larkin was spellbound with Edwin's sleights of hand and magic skills.

Edwin wrote many notable books on biochemistry and continues with his magic, having been awarded the Gold Medal from the Magic Circle for "exemplary service to the Society or exceptional magical ability or both". He is only the ninth recipient of this award since 1926.

As well as library and magic commitments, Edwin's biochemistry department at Hull University took the lead in researching bioplastics in the early 1970s, which led to the commercialisation of Biopol, a biodegradable plastic polymer chain that can be used to make disposable plastic items, a discovery later sidelined but now the subject of renewed interest.

Written and presented by Andrew McGibbon

Producer: Nick Romero
A Curtains For Radio production for BBC Radio 4.